As part of its work to represent the interests of its members, the Law Society of England and Wales regularly lobbies parliament and parliamentarians on issues affecting legal professions. The following is a summary of the Society's activities in parliament through December.
The Lord Chancellor and his ministerial team faced questions in the House of Commons on Tuesday [18 December], where the Society's work on legal aid deserts was highlighted, and further support was given by MPs for the restoration of legal aid for early advice.
Counter-Terrorism And Border Security Bill
On Monday [3 December], the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill was considered by the House of Lords at report stage. The Law Society was positively referenced five times, and excerpts from the Society's parliamentary briefing were quoted by Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Baroness Hamwee. The Lords also agreed to an amendment the Law Society supported, removing a power for officials to listen in to confidential legal advice.
The Bill passed Report Stage in the House of Lords on Monday [17 December]. Following lobbying by the Law Society, two amendments were passed removing provisions from the Bill that would undermine legal professional privilege and access to confidential legal advice from a solicitor. The Law Society supported these amendments, and was credited with leading the debate on this issue in previous stages of the Bill.
Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill
The Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill passed Second Reading in the House of Lords. The Law Society was mentioned twice in the debate by Labour MP Alex Cunningham, who referred to the Society's concern about the interaction between this Bill and the recently published Mental Health Act review.
Non-Contentious Probate (Fees) Order
The House of Lords voted to approve the Non-Contentious Probate (Fees) Order on Tuesday [18 December], but also passed a motion to regret the dramatic hike in fees for grant of probate. The Law Society’s opposition to the proposals was referenced nine times in the debate, and passages from the Society's parliamentary briefing were quoted by members of the House.
Inquiry On Leasehold Reform
On Monday [10 December], Jonathan Smithers gave evidence on behalf of the Law Society to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee’s inquiry on leasehold reform. Jonathan’s evidence focused on the role and independence of conveyancing solicitors, while also highlighting the Society’s concerns around the potential use of retrospective legislation and its impact on the rule of law.
Courts And Tribunals Bill
The Courts and Tribunals Bill passed its committee stage in the House of Commons [in the first week of December]. It will now progress to report stage.